Since the launch of our partnership with the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) in 2018, more than 1,500 GP practices across the UK have linked with their local parkrun event to become a parkrun practice.
But it isn’t enough to just have the headline numbers, we wanted to find out how the initiative was being perceived and implemented by the practices and by our event teams. Read on to find out more.
With the approval of the parkrun Research Board, we worked closely with Dr Jo Fleming and a team of researchers from the Unit of Academic Primary Care at Warwick Medical School in 2019 to build our understanding, and help grow the evidence base around social prescribing more generally.
Last year, the findings from the GP practice part of the study were published in the British Journal of General Practitioners (BJGP) and we are pleased to report that the outcomes of the event team-based study have just been published as a peer reviewed journal article in the Health and Social Care in the Community. This article was co-authored by our Global Lead for Health and Wellbeing, Chrissie Wellington.
This study investigated the links between parkrun events and GP practices in order to understand why and how parkrun events establish those connections, and their experiences of doing so. The purpose was to provide practical recommendations for developing the parkrun practice initiative and similar collaborations between primary care and voluntary organisations like parkrun.
An online survey was sent to Event Directors for all UK parkrun events in May 2019 and completed by over 50% of them. We are incredibly grateful to all those teams who took the time to complete the survey and assist us in this important piece of work.
Encouragingly, over two-thirds (70%) of the event teams were knowingly linked with one or more GP practices; and this was generally viewed as having been a positive experience. They reported being motivated by wanting to positively impact the health and wellbeing of their community and improve links between parkrun and the healthcare sector.
As with any project there are challenges and, for event teams, these centred on the process of initiating contact with the local practices, the lack of time that some parkrun event team members might have, as volunteers, in promoting the initiative and a lack of clarity around event team and practice roles and responsibilities under the project. Helpfully, event teams came up with useful recommendations for improving the initiative which will help address some of the challenges that were identified.
This research is not just of use to parkrun and RCGP, but will be of relevance to organisations that are already involved in social prescribing, or might wish to do so in future.
For parkrun, the parkrun practice initiative is a great example of how public health can link with community groups, in a simple, scalable low-cost way, in order to address some of the underlying causes of ill health, ease the pressure on NHS services and build active, connected communities centred on wellness.
We will be working closely with RCGP over the coming year to act on the findings of the study, especially when our 5k events reopen in the UK in 2021 and we can really focus on taking this fantastic project from strength to strength.
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